The relative calm of the past 14 months in India with the exception of intermittent violence in troubled Kashmir and the northeast was shattered on Saturday night when faceless terrorists struck the German Bakery in Pune, killing nine people and injuring dozens of others. The bakery is popular with both Indians and foreigners and could hence have been a target in fact, two of the dead were foreigners.
Home Minister P. Chidambaram, who has been credited with strengthening India's defences since taking over after the terror strikes in Mumbai in November 2008, was right when he asked the country's vociferous media outlets to refrain from speculative reporting, ‘as it causes confusion'. But the blasts have exposed again the many chinks in India's security armour.
Despite Chidambaram's reassurances that the blast was not a result of intelligence failure and that the bakery was a ‘soft target', the terrorists have proved once again that they retain the ability to strike at will in the heart of major Indian cities. In plain words, the security agencies were caught napping. The country's jittery citizenry needs solid reassurances that such attacks will not occur in the future. But, given the way things are going, that looks depressingly unlikely.
The blast also comes just a day after India and Pakistan agreed to hold peace talks on February 25. While Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has condemned the atrocity, the Hindu nationalist opposition in India may have jumped the gun by calling for the cancellation of the proposed negotiations with Islamabad. That is what the extremists want; tensions between the two rivals work in their favour. In the interest of peace, it is crucial that the negotiations go ahead as scheduled.
What the people of India now deserve is a detailed and thorough probe into the heinous crime, culminating in the arrest and prosecution of those responsible.